By Cathy Kuehner
Clarke County Sheriff Anthony W. “Tony” Roper formally announced his forthcoming retirement during a brief event in front of Circuit Court on April 21. He first ran for sheriff — and was elected — in 2003, beginning his first term in January 2004. Clarke County voters elected him to his fifth four-year term in November 2019. His current term ends December 31.
Roper, 63, began his law enforcement career as a 911 dispatcher after graduating from Clarke County High School in 1978. He was a correctional officer when the county jail was located in the circa-1892 building that still serves as the
He attended Bluefield College in Virginia, and graduated from the Virginia Forensic Science Academy, the executive-level law enforcement training from the FBI National Academy at Quantico. Later he graduated from the National Sheriff’s Institute in
Roper worked as a sheriff’s deputy in Loudoun County for a couple years before returning to the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, where he became an investigator focused on narcotics cases. He is a founding member of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force and the regional FBI Drugs and Violent Crime Task Force. He was working with the FBI on 9/11.
Why a career in law enforcement? Roper laughed. “As a teenager I watched a lot of television cop shows like ‘Starsky & Hutch’
Every Virginia county and city elects their sheriffs, who are responsible for upholding and enforcing all the laws of the state and
Roper, a Democrat, has been elected five times to serve as Clarke County’s Sheriff. He considers getting the sheriff’s office accredited by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission in November 2011 a major accomplishment.
Accreditation by the commission, affiliated with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, requires meeting a lengthy list of standards for best practices, from traffic enforcement, to criminal investigations, to the
In 2016, Roper joined the state’s Criminal Justice Services Board, a 32-member group drawn from state and local governments, the private security industry, the General Assembly and public that serves as the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services
Roper also serves the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program, an outgrowth of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; the Virginia Center for Policing Innovation, which addresses critical and emerging public safety issues; and the Northwestern Regional Jail Authority that governs the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center. Previously, and for many years, Roper served on the Virginia Sheriffs’ Institute Board and was its president for a term.
He expects to serve on some boards after he retires. “I have purpose, and I’m focused on the future,” he said.
Until he retires, Roper remains dedicated to serving Clarke residents and business owners as well as those who are visiting or simply driving through the county.
Roper sometimes jokes that he simply does not allow crime in Clarke County. The reality, he said, is that crime is here, and the challenges have not changed over the years: drugs, drunk driving, domestic violence, and property crimes. Roper said violent crimes are rare in Clarke, but traffic-related incidents and accidents
“Human beings are going to be human beings,” he said, adding that he gives great thought to all possible worst-case scenarios.
Roper describes himself as forward thinking and hopeful by nature, but says he also worries about having the staff and resources to cover all of Clarke County. “I’m always asking myself, ‘Am I paying enough attention to all parts of
Roper oversees a staff of 40 employees — full-time and part-time deputies, 911 dispatchers, and an administrative assistant. There are 20 full-time “sworn” deputies, including Roper. “I know that when law enforcement is on scene, the people we speak with are under enormous stress,” Roper said. “So, we do our work with professionalism as well as compassion, and we let them know that no matter the situation, everything is going to be OK.”
During this time in particular, when law enforcement agencies across the country are under scrutiny, “I remind our deputies to go out into our community and find out how much they are appreciated,” Roper said.
He continued, “And, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve arrested over the years who have later thanked me for helping them to straighten out their lives.”
Clarke County’s first sheriff, George H. Norris, was appointed in 1836 after Clarke County (previously eastern Frederick County) was formed by the General Assembly, and a new government was established with courts and law enforcement. Many sheriffs were elected to multiple terms, including the three who served over the past 50 years: Albert Nicodemus (first elected in 1972), Dale Gardner (first elected in 1988), and Clarke County’s 25th sheriff, Tony Roper.
Roper and his wife Karen live in the Wildcat Hollow area of the county; they have three grown children and eight grandchildren. One son and a grandson are deputies with the Frederick County, Va., Sheriff’s Office.
As for 2024 and retirement, “I have no idea what’s next. My plan right now is to take a couple months and do nothing.”